Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1177
The play is set in Mexico City in the 1960s, with the focus on two poor young people who accidentally derail a train, and then have to face the consequences of punishment and everyone's varying perceptions of their deed. The play is broken up into twenty-one short scenes, opening with a spotlight on the Medium. She has a long poetic monologue in which she sees her heart as a sea anemone and claims she stores part of everything she's seen in herself. She says she receives information about events that will happen.
The next scene starts in the dark with the sound of a train crash, and a Newsboy hawks his papers with news about a tram derailment. The play then shifts to a city scene with two young people, Tona and Polo, struggling to fish coins out of a telephone booth so they can buy candy. They tell a man who wants to use the booth that the phone is broken and eventually succeed at getting a coin but then gamble it away with Tona's bus fare on a bet with the candy vendor. Polo finds another coin and they buy candy. Tona asks Polo why he isn't going to school. He says it's because he doesn't have shoes and will not have money to get any for another week or so. They are joined by an older friend, Maximino, who clearly is watching out for them. He complains that his motorcycle isn't working but he is going to fix it at the garage where he works. Tona inspects his wallet and begs a picture from him which he signs. She says she will put it on her mirror. She makes run of the photo of his girlfriend, saying she's cross-eyed.
The next scene finds Tona and Polo in a dump along with a scavenger who begs money so he can buy a drink. Tona gives him all their money. They find things like an old engine, thorny flowers, and a tub that would be good for planting flowers. They discover the tub is filled with concrete and put it on the tracks in the path of an approaching train to try and break out the concrete. The Newsboy appears again, announcing that the train disaster was caused by delinquent children.
The Medium makes her second appearance, where she talks about dogs, cats, hens, and eggs. She also marvels at the wisdom of butterflies," bees, and snakes.
While the Newsboy again sells his papers, a lady and gentleman discuss the train derailment and the poverty that caused these children to be so barbaric.
The scene changes to a schoolroom where a teacher lectures about the evils of delinquency, using their classmate Polo as an example. In another scene, two university students discuss the train derailment. They are envious of the inspired action and the children's courage, thinking the action a premeditated one against the establishment.
Maximino gets a call at the garage where he is working. He asks his boss if he can have a little time off to go get Tona and Polo out of jail. His boss wonders about why they were playing around a train.
At the scene of the train derailment, a scavenger packs a large sack with goods from the derailed tram. Several poor people come and gather food while wondering if this is stealing or not. They send for other family members to help them cart off as much as they can.
The Medium again appears to tell of a dream that two brothers had in two different cities. The dream instructed each brother to go to the other brother's house. They meet in the middle of the tap but are confused about where they are to fulfill the demands of the dream, so they stop where they are and build a little church and an altar where they pray and dance.
The Newsboy reappears, expanding the story, claiming that the damage from the train derailment is over a half million pesos.
In the next scene, Tona's mother and sister talk as her mother prepares to visit Tona in jail. They comment on her photo in the paper. Polo's mother visits him in jail, and moans over his imprisonment and berates him for being so stupid, not to have run from arrest. Their absent fathers are blamed for the children's delinquency.
The Newsboy again announces the news declaring that "schizoid children" have induced a public trauma.
The next two scenes are different interpretations of the event that happened. The first is presented by a Freudian psychologist who interprets all of the children's actions and the world before and at the time of the wreck, as having sexual significance. He sees the incidents as connected with repressed libido, or sexual energy.
A second professor, who is a Marxist economist, analyzes the experience based on class and economic factors. The children represent the lowest and poorest part of society. The action of the children, in his interpretation, is the natural result of years of oppression.
Maximino visits Tona in prison. Of course he wants to understand why she did it, but she is most interested in her picture in the paper and whether he will carry it in his wallet. He counsels her to avoid the other women in jail, whom she has found quite interesting. She asks him to carry only her photo in his wallet, not his cross-eyed girlfriend's. He agrees.
The scavengers appear again in the next scene at the dump. They are celebrating their abundance— the things they have scavenged from the train wreck. Some of the items they have traded for food and drink, including tequila, so they are becoming quite happy.
Lights come up on Maximmo calling his girlfriend from the garage, trying to explain what he has been doing. He ends up calling her a cross-eyed bitch.
The next scene focuses on an Announcer with a rose to examine. He seems like the host of some kind of game show, with questions to answer. He asks his audience what he has and then goes into a monologue about a rose, wondering what it becomes when the petals drop. He goes further to examine a rose fiber and then asks of these three images—the whole rose, the rose petal, and the rose fiber—which is the true image1? Which one is the real rose?
The Newsboy again comes and promises that the paper offers the total truth of the train crash. The Medium appears briefly. She explains the derailment, seeing the children as becoming part of all that surrounded them, and in the process, unearthing truth. Tona and Polo join the scene and dance ecstatically. And as the Medium replays the incident, with a view much different than the two professors, she shows the future—Polo owning his own garage and Tona marrying Maximino. The play ends with a sort of chant that links Tona, Polo, Maximino, and the Medium, and looks at the reality of a unity among them, "a single beating heart.1'
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